Ms. RICHARDSON. Mr. Speaker, I rise today in strong support of H.R. 1842, The DREAM Act. I call up the House Republican leadership to bring this important legislation, which reflects fundamental American values of opportunity, responsibility, and community to the floor. The DREAM Act provides an opportunity for certain young men and women who demonstrate the responsible behavior necessary to earn the chance to become a naturalized citizen.
The DREAM Act recognizes that there are a limited number of young people who, through no fault of their own, have been living in the United States illegally since childhood. For the vast majority of these young men and women, the United States is the only country they have ever known and is the one to which they have always pledged allegiance.
By providing those who have demonstrated good moral character the ability to integrate fully into American society through military service or a college education, The DREAM Act rewards responsible and productive behavior while at the same time invests in the future prosperity of our great Nation.
Passing The DREAM Act makes our country stronger, fairer, more just. And it will also make our Nation more prosperous in the long term by providing incentives and opportunities for higher education for thousands of students who each year are unable to attend college because of their immigration status.
The Congressional Budget Office estimates that The DREAM Act will reduce the deficit by $1.4 billion over the next 10 years through increased tax revenue. Similarly, a study conducted by UCLA also estimates that DREAM Act beneficiaries have the potential to generate from $1.4 trillion to $3.6 trillion in income throughout their working lives.
Each year, approximately 65,000 students graduate high school without the possibility of continuing their education due to their immigration status and less than 10 percent of these students will go on to pursue college. Not only do these talented, law-abiding young individuals lose out on their extraordinary potential, but as a Nation we also run the risk of losing out on a tremendous amount of economic growth.
Mr. Speaker, The DREAM Act gives these students the opportunity to continue their academic pursuits, be officially recognized by the country in which they have spent most of their lives, and realize everything the American Dream has to offer. Young, undocumented immigrants who have just graduated from high school deserve the opportunity to follow their dreams and should not have a ceiling placed on their future because of decisions made by others and circumstances entirely beyond their control.
During my visits to schools in my district, one of the most ethnically diverse in the Nation, I have had the opportunity to meet many students who will benefit greatly from the passage of this legislation. These students have grown up attending schools in the United States and are intimately woven into our Nation's fabric. It is time that we recognize these students' achievements and allow them to step out of the shadow that prevents them from pursuing their dreams.
The Washington Post recently published an article on a young woman named Heydi Mejia, whose story exemplifies the type of situation we can hope to avoid by passing The DREAM Act. Young Heydi has lived in America from the age of 4, graduated in the top 10 percent of her class and had plans to attend college to become a nurse and return to serve her community. Her life was turned upside down when nine immigration officials showed up at her house this past December ordering her back to Guatemala, a country she barely knows, and to which she never pledged allegiance.
I was delighted to hear yesterday that Heydi and her mother have been granted a 1-year reprieve from deportation by the DHS, but this situation should not have arisen in the first place. It should not take a front page article in The Washington Post to keep a hardworking and successful young woman from being deported.
Mr. Speaker, I rise today to ask my colleagues to support The DREAM Act. We are a nation of immigrants, built on the backs of those who risked everything for the dream of a country that accepts all those who are willing to work hard and make something of themselves. I believe America is still that country, and it is our fundamental duty to provide a better life to those willing to work for it.